Travel the globe with cultural cuisine for every day of the week
Food is such an important thread woven through the fabric of our lives. It’s so much more than nourishment – it’s strongly tied to our culture and our heritage. The Fox Cities’ culinary scene has a cornucopia of cultural options, which add a deep richness to our shared experiences. Those restaurateurs who share their cuisine with the community have opened their doors – and their hearts – to share their love for food and cooking.
With a choice for each day of the week – and so many more – you owe it to yourself and your stomach to explore outside your comfort zone and delight your tastebuds.
Sunday: Brunch at Egyptian Delights Cafe
When Egyptian Delights Cafe owner Ezzeldin Ismail came to the United States from Egypt in 2009, he saw a void in the options for Egyptian and Middle Eastern food. He started selling food at the farmers market and eventually opened his own cafe in Appleton in 2016. He now offers around 10 food options, complemented by drink choices typical of the Middle East and Egypt.
“Egyptian cuisine has a huge variety,” explains Ismail. “I came from Alexandria; it’s on the Mediterranean. We have a big community of French, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Turkish people.”
Ismail says that the tradition of sharing food among the different cultures in Egypt has created a melting pot of food culture, with an emphasis on healthy spices, like cumin, coriander, black pepper and nutmeg. His falafel, kofta and gollash are best sellers. Koftah, he explains, is made from ground beef with onions, parsley and Egyptian spices grilled over charcoal – similar to an American burger but with an Egyptian twist.
A strong Turkish coffee and koftah are the perfect antidote to whatever ails you on a late Sunday morning, and a great way to kick off the week with comfort.
Monday: Pisco Mar
Mondays can be heavy, so it’s the perfect night to visit a restaurant for something fresh and light. Laura Saint Geours, former owner of Il Angolo in Appleton, opened her new venture Pisco Mar in Appleton in 2016 with chef and partner Hugo Torres. Now, says niece Grisell Soto, they’re celebrating three years of turning out Peruvian-inspired fusion cuisine to hungry diners.
“We have Peruvian [dishes], but also a lot of South American dishes,” she says. “They definitely have a lot of fresh fish, a lot of potatoes and peppers – a lot of flavor on their food…So we have fresh fish from Fortune Fish in Chicago and fresh meat from the Meat Block; we support local vendors and we play with the flavors. We have their peppers, their spices, their potatoes, their presentations.”
Pisco Mar ceviche is one of their signature appetizers. It includes the choice of fish, shrimp, octopus or scallops, which are then marinated in fresh lime juice, paired with avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, and ginger garnished with Choclo (Peruvian corn), sweet potato, and fried plantains. Their whole branzino is another great option if you’re looking for something on the lighter side. It’s pan seared and complemented by the house signature Pisco mushroom cream sauce.
Tuesday: OB’s Brau Haus
Opened in Appleton in 1999, OB’s Brau Haus has become a go-to spot for German and other European fare in the Fox Cities. Originally started in Germany in 1928 by the grandfather of owner Franz Schadt, the restaurant’s main focus these days is on their delicious schnitzels, explains general manager Christopher Nelis. On a Tuesday night, Nelis recommends the schnitzel art des hauses or the wild pork shanks.
“[The shanks] are fall-off-the-bone tender, nice, rich and savory, and we smother the shanks with a homemade mushroom peppercorn cream sauce,” he says. “These are served with a side of red cabbage or kraut, and I usually recommend getting the spatzel (bed of mini dumplings) with this entree.”
The schnitzel art des haus, meanwhile, is a pork loin that is tenderized, lightly breaded, and pan fried, topped with diced ham, white asparagus and mozzarella.
“We bake the mozzarella on the schnitzel and then smother it in a family recipe three-cheese sauce,” explains Nelis. “The schnitzel itself is packed full of flavor and is so tender you can cut it with your fork. The sauce complements the flavor of the pork perfectly and the white asparagus basically melts in your mouth.”
Wednesday: Osorio’s Latin Fusion
Osorio’s Latin Fusion is the perfect restaurant to visit in the middle of the week, when they host “Wine Wednesday.” Co-owner Kimberly Finnell suggests selecting a big, red wine on special and pairing it with their chimichurri flank steak, which is their Cuban-inspired dish served on a plantain cake.
“All of our food is made from scratch; Chef Liborio and his team do not cut any corners on anything,” she says. “Our menu has everything from enchiladas to hand-cut Chilean sea bass, all prepared with love and care.”
The Appleton restaurant, opened in 2012, has two sides to what they serve, she furthers. For the traditional fare, they make the best possible version of familiar, Latin dishes, like their take on the chile relleno. It is stuffed with freshly sauteed vegetables and topped with mouth-watering tequila cream sauce. It isn’t fried, however, because it tastes better, it’s healthier, and the ingredients get to sing, she states. For the chef selections, Chef Liborio proves he can “Latinize” any dish. JumbaLatin, his take on jumbalaya, is made with homemade chorizo sausage, poblano rice and the slow-simmered seafood stock.
Finnell adds that she is beyond grateful to have made a home in the Fox Cities. “I cannot possibly say enough great things about how accepting and welcoming everyone has been. I love it here and cannot imagine raising our children anywhere else.”
Thursday: Basil Cafe
Basil Cafe is an often-recommended restaurant for Lao, Thai and Vietnamese food in the Fox Valley. Everything is homemade and made to order with a lot of love, says general manager S. Larry Chomsisengphet. He explains Southeast Asian food as fresh, bright, herbaceous and full of flavor and umami. It was his sister, Sou, who opened the restaurant, has been the guiding light for eight years.
In addition to menu items like Mok (pronounced Moh-Oak), Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese crepe), and Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles), the Nam Khao (Lao Deep Fried Rice) is a highly recommended dish that Chomsisengphet says you won’t find anywhere else in the Fox Cities. It’s jasmine rice with freshly grated coconut, lemongrass, and curry seasoning, packed into a ball and then fried. They let the balls cool down a bit and break them apart, adding fresh squeezed lime juice, cilantro, green onions, freshly roasted peanuts, and a Lao pickled pork sausage (or a tofu substitute). Everything gets mixed together and it’s served with lettuce, mint, cilantro, and a lime wedge on the side.
“The dish is eaten like a lettuce wrap and just full of flavor and textures, crispy bits of rice and soft fluffy bits of rice,” he explains. “I guarantee you’ve never had anything like this dish before.”
Friday/Wild Card: Caribbean Taste
If you can catch Reggie Desamour out on the road with his Caribbean Taste food truck, or when he opens as a pop-up restaurant out of Green Tomato in Appleton, you will quickly understand how he’s developed a following for his authentic and healthy Caribbean food.
Desamour came to Wisconsin for the first time as part of an academic program in 2009. Once that was completed, he realized nothing quite sparked passion in him like cooking did, something he did in Haiti with his mother.
“I enjoyed cooking growing up and that was something I found I truly enjoyed a lot as I grew older,” he explains. “It was a way for me to remain connected to my culture while in the United States.”
In 2019 his idea for a Caribbean food truck came to fruition. Dishes like his jerk chicken, rice and beans, pikliz (Haitian coleslaw), mango lime chicken and garlic pork have created quite the buzz on social media. Working out of Green Tomato, he says, is a great opportunity to continue serving during the food truck’s slow season.
“For me, I love Caribbean Taste because it has allowed me to develop really great relationships with the community of supporters I’ve gained,” he adds. “I’m able to share my culture and food, which is something dear to me, and connect with people. I have no complaints.”
Check out Caribbean Taste’s Facebook page for up-to-date hours of operation and locations.
Saturday: Carmella’s Italian Bistro
There is just something about a Saturday night that commands an authentic Italian meal.
Carmella’s Italian Bistro offers simple, fresh food with many different options for dining.
“The menu lets our guests choose their dining experience, which can be light and simple, or coursed, like true Italians like to eat,” explains co-owner Nicole DeFranza. “We serve the food we grew up on. The sauce is the same that our grandmother, Carmella, made every Sunday. She taught our dad how to cook and this is their food.”
So, whether you want to keep it light and easy before a show at the Fox Cities PAC with a glass of wine and their meat and cheese selections – complemented by house-made marmaletta, or you want to go more in depth with their chicken saltimbocca (chicken breast with spinach, prosciutto, fontina and marsala sauce), the staff is happy to help you make a decision.
“Our menu might seem very complex, but it’s not,” adds DeFranza. “The waitstaff is extremely knowledgeable and well versed in all our offerings. Our goal is to guide our guests through an experience every time they dine with us.”